Robert Hudson Walker was born on Sunday, October 13, 1918, in Salt Lake City, Utah the night the “Big Fire” swept through the city. His parents were Horace and Zella Walker, and he was the youngest of their four sons. Bob’s older brothers were Walter, aged 12, Wayne, 10, and Richard (Dick), 2. His father was the city editor of the “Deseret News”; and after a weary night of reporting on the blaze, he finally had the chance to put in a call to the hospital to learn of his son’s birth. “It was smoky dawn before the phone on his desk stopped buzzing and he could get a call through to the hospital. When the fire extra was on the presses and he could lean back in his swivel chair and breathe again, he got the connection. His eyes, red-rimmed as Salt Lake’s city blocks, crinkled with the good news and he turned wearily to his typewriter and tapped out the item himself:

A seven-pound son was born to Mrs. Horace Walker last night at Salt Lake Hospital.”1

Deseret News Building, Salt Lake City

In an interview by Jean Kinkead from September of 1946 entitled “Kid Brother”, Walter Walker was interviewed about his famous sibling. “Their brother Bob’s birth, they remembered, was somewhat eclipsed by the Salt Lake City fire, both of which occurred on the same night. When – next morning – their dad told his three sons that they had a new brother, they were unimpressed. Having sat up watching flames and fire engines well into the night, they were three pretty weary, pretty blasé characters. If it had been a sister, now – but a brother? Brothers they had. Robert Hudson Walker took his place in the Walker household with a minimum of fanfare.”2

Robert at 18 months old (Screen World, Fall 1950)

To quote Bob himself, “I basically felt inadequate, unwanted, and unloved since I was born. I was always trying to make an escape from life. I was an aggressive little character, but what nobody knew but me was my badness was only a cover-up for a basic lack of self-confidence, that I was really more afraid than frightening.”3

Robert at 18 months old (Modern Screen January 1946)

“He was the odd pea in the pod, that Baby Walker kid, and felt it. As soon as he could crawl, his natural reaction was to get out on his own. When he was still in skirts he used to scurry out the door when his mother forgot and left it open, and venture out on the Salt Lake City streets, dragging his teddy bear, hunting new worlds.”4

Robert (2nd from right) with his Mother (Zella) and brothers Walter and Richard (Screenland Oct 1943)

Bob’s early school days were not a success, and he was always being sent home for annoying the little girls and pulling hair and running away from school. His best friend in those days was a boy named Adrian, who was to be his best pal for a number of years and with whom he shared many an adventure. Along with Adrian were two girls, Mabel Anson and Jean Murdock, Bob’s first girlfriends. “Mabel Anson was a brunette and Jean Murdock was a blonde, and they supplied the two types of feminine beauty, talent and grace for Bob Walker’s backyard theatrical ventures. But both had a more practical interest in Walker Productions. Jean had the headstart; she and Bob were sweethearts at the age of six and Jean was the first girl he ever kissed. Right away Bob liked that.”5

Robert - age 4

(The Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

It was at this time in his life that Bob began producing backyard plays in the family garage on “F” Street. His childhood pals were the actors, but Bob was the star. The old Salt Lake Theatre as mentioned in the following fascinated him: “In Bob’s boyhood the Salt Lake was a wonderful place of magic. Tired old touring companies played there several years before a show hit Broadway, but to Bob they were the greatest pageants in the world. He saw his first play there – a religious spectacle about the Crucifixion, and as that was about the time he was awakening to a spiritual consciousness, it impressed him as no other play ever has. He dreamed about it for days and when the Salt Lake closed its doors for keeps he hung around the place, peering into every corner to see what made a real theater go.”6

Salt Lake Theater, Salt Lake City

When Bob was twelve years old, his family moved to Ogden, Utah when his father changed jobs. His two older brothers had already left the family nest and were off at school. So, Bob moved away from his childhood friends in Salt Lake. It was not that great a distance, just 30 miles down the Union Pacific main line. “Still, it was enough of a change to give Bob a new lease on his budding life, and for a while there were hopes at the new brick Walker house in Ogden that Bob had quieted down. For one thing, he had officially embraced the Mormon faith – something none of the other Walker sons had done. Matters of religion Horace and Zella left entirely up to their children. They realized that a new generation had new spiritual needs and urges. Very early, Bob evidenced a marked spiritual side that was along the line of his thoughts – which were always more emotional than rational.”7

Bob’s parents had hopes the move would calm his restless spirit, and he did seem to be happier, but only for so long. He and his old pal Adrian hopped a freight on a whim and he was gone for several days before returning to Ogden in disgrace. It was about this time in his young life that his aunt Hortense Oldum, Zella’s sister, took a hand. She paid all his expenses at the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in Southern California. It was his family’s hope that the discipline of a military school would straighten out his wayward behavior.

Robert Walker would later tell an interviewer, “’Right now, ‘ admits Bob reflectively, ‘when I remember how stubborn I was, how certain my parents didn’t understand me, it scares me a little. You see, I have two boys myself – Michael and Bobbie, Jr., -- and I wonder how I’ll ever get it across to them, how I’ll ever put it into words when they’re fourteen that I DO understand them. Because my parents are wonderful people, really, and they did understand me – only the connection was lost somewhere along the line, and they couldn’t get it across to me how they felt.

Fortunately, I had an aunt, a wonderful down-to-earth person, who volunteered to send me away to school, and although I didn’t like discipline, it’s life for you that I should wind up at the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, where discipline IS discipline!”8



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